South Sudan Demands Withdrawal of Sudanese Army From Abyei

The Sudanese Army marched into Abyei last year

South Sudan said Tuesday that it would not accept Sudan placing conditions on its withdrawal from the contested region of Abyei, or any action that violated recent resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations and African Union.

Luka Biong, a senior South Sudanese official, has warned that if the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) does not withdraw by 15 May Juba would consider using force to remove them from the area. The SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, responded by that such an action would turn Abyei into “a zone of armed conflict” as SAF would not hesitate to retaliate.

South Sudan’s withdrawal from Abyei on 10 May has been confirmed by the UN peacekeeping mission in the disputed area. But Khartoum has said it will only remove it’s troops if a civilian administration is established, as per a deal between the two sides last year.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Luka Biong Deng, the Co-Chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) on behalf of the government of South Sudan said demands of the Sudanese government was “irrational and unjustifiable.”

“What Khartoum is saying has no basis and it is inconsistent with all the agreements and resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations and the Africa Union. It is therefore unjustifiable,” said Biong.

He said the stance of the Sudanese government would be a test to the international community ability to pressure Khartoum into complying. Sudan’s foreign minister has said that Khartoum would have to accept the resolution, with some reservations, to avoid Juba being able to portray itself as the victim of the issue.

“It is high time the international community realise that Sudan is the real problem and it is time to put strong pressure although the government is obsessed with sanctions. There is actually a need to put powerful and effective sanctions. The African Union should take [the] lead”, said Biong.

The senior government official commended Malawian president for refusing visit of the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir to attend a regional summit in Lilongwe. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide he allegedly orchestrated in his country’s western region of Darfur.

Contributing to the same briefing, Edward Lino Wuor Abyei said international community has short memories of the Sudanese history particularly the issue of Abyei. He accused the Arab League and Islamic world of giving blind support to Sudanese government without looking at historical facts.

“The Arab League has refused to see facts just because of the Arab identity. They have lost rational thinking and decided to side with Sudan all time. They are now providing financial support to Sudan against the South”, said Wuor explaining that the successive Sudanese governments have repeatedly and unjustifiably refused to implement any accord on Abyei.

“This is not the first time. There was an agreement in 1972 which gave Abyei the right to self determination but the government in Khartoum refused”, he explained.

Abyei’s status was supposed to be determined via a vote originally planned to take place simultaneously with that of South Sudan on independence in January last year. But the plebiscite stalled due to disagreements between Sudanese and South Sudanese leaders on who has the right to vote.

The AU, in a press release Friday hailed South Sudan’s efforts to withdraw her police force with its chairperson Jean Ping saying “such withdrawal would mark a significant step in the normalisation of relations between the two countries and the creation of confidence.”